August 5th, 2013
06:04 PM ET

Source: al Qaeda leader urged affiliate to 'do something'

By Barbara Starr

A message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to his second in command in Yemen told him to "do something," causing U.S. and Yemeni officials to fear imminent terrorist action, CNN has learned.

For weeks, U.S. and Yemeni officials watched a rising stream of intelligence about the possibility of a major terrorist attack in Yemen but grew increasingly alarmed after intercepting a message within the past several days said to be from al-Zawahiri, who is believed to be in Pakistan. The message was sent to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group's Yemeni affiliate. U.S. intelligence believes al-Wuhayshi has recently been appointed the overall terror organization's No. 2 leader.

U.S. officials cautioned that there may be multiple sources of intelligence including intercepts of electronic information from phone calls, web postings, but also interrogation of couriers or other operatives.

CNN had the information over the weekend and decided not to report the details about al-Zawahiri's involvement based on U.S. government concerns about the sensitivity of the information. Now that it has been widely reported in other media, including the New York Times and McClatchy, CNN has now decided to report it as well. FULL POST

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Zawahiri • AQAP • Yemen
US special forces on alert overseas to strike any potential Al Qaeda targets
August 5th, 2013
03:41 PM ET

US special forces on alert overseas to strike any potential Al Qaeda targets

By Barbara Starr

American special forces units overseas have been on alert for the past several days for a mission to attack potential al Qaeda targets if those behind the most recent terror threats against U.S. interests can be identified, a senior Obama administration official told CNN.

The official declined to identify the units or their locations because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The units, along with several others, were put on heightened alert by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week.

The United States closed embassies and consulates across an area of Africa and the Middle East and imposed a global travel alert for Americans following threats against U.S. interests described as serious and credible.
FULL POST

US official: Al Qaeda core chief picks number two from Yemeni affiliate
Nasir al Wuhayshi, the Yemeni leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
August 5th, 2013
03:12 PM ET

US official: Al Qaeda core chief picks number two from Yemeni affiliate

By Barbara Starr

In what may be a disturbing sign of al Qaeda’s resurgence, U.S. intelligence believes the Yemeni head of its affiliate in the Arabian peninsula is now the overall terror organization’s No. 2 leader.

A U.S. official with access to the latest intelligence said that Nasir al Wuhayshi was appointed over the past few weeks by al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is widely thought by the Obama administration to be behind the latest terror threat that prompted the closure this week of U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East and North Africa.

The official declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. The source also would not say how specifically Wuhayshi’s appointment may be related to the new developments.
FULL POST

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Terrorism • Yemen
Former spy: U.S. gains with Snowden in Russia
August 5th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

Former spy: U.S. gains with Snowden in Russia

By Chris Boyce, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Christopher Boyce, the subject of the 1985 movie "The Falcon and the Snowman," spent 25 years in federal prison for providing U.S. intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union. His book, "The Falcon and The Snowman: American Sons," which was co-authored by Cait Boyce and Vince Font, is scheduled for release on August 20. Follow Chris Boyce on Twitter: @CodenameFalcon

(CNN) - It was with a heavy heart that I heard Edward Snowden has been granted, and apparently accepted, temporary asylum in Russia for one year. Short of locking him naked in solitary confinement as an example to other leakers, as was done to Bradley Manning, Russia is exactly where the American intelligence community wants Snowden.

How better to discredit Snowden's warnings of the threat posed to civil liberties by our ever-growing surveillance state than to ceaselessly point out that he has found sanctuary in the arms of the FSB, the successor to the KGB? I suspect this latest development will nix any possibility of reform of domestic surveillance operations coming out of the House Judiciary Committee.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Edward Snowden
August 5th, 2013
09:10 AM ET

U.S. extends embassy closures

What started as an unprecedented move to close almost two dozen diplomatic posts for a day has broadened to week-long closures for most of them as the United States mulls the threat of a possible attack.

A trio of factors prompted officials to extend most of its embassy and consulate closures until Saturday: an intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives, the end of Ramadan, and concerns over several major prison breaks in the region.

Originally, officials decided to close 22 embassies and consulates this past Sunday - a day when they would normally be open for business.

But Sunday afternoon, the State Department extended embassy and consulate closures in 15 of the locations through Saturday, and added four other posts - all in Africa - to the list. This brings the total to 19.

FULL STORY

Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Terrorism
August 5th, 2013
08:59 AM ET

What the latest terror threat means at home and abroad

CNN National Security Analyst Fran Townsend tells CNN's Chris Cuomo what the latest security and terror threat warnings mean both here at home and abroad.


Filed under: AQAP • Terrorism